Venezuela’s military recently took control of the water supply, leaving people with no other option but pay for water. Seven key access points in the capital and even public and private water trucks are now being run by soldiers or police. Allegedly, these men in uniform dictate drivers to deliver to favoured recipients.
The regime of autocratic president Nicolas Maduro, turned over lucrative industries to the military – from mining, oil, food and water.
When he became president in 2013, he gave key positions to many active and retired military officials in public office.
Norberto Bausson who was the head of Hidrocapital in the 1990’s expressed outraged at how the government has abused its control of the military:
“The water sector has been completely taken because of a government that believes the military can grant order to things. If on top of this institutional incompetence, you add a dry year, then the consequences are tremendous.”
Bausson added that the pipes in Caracas haven’t been repaired for ages due to poor management and dwindling maintenance crew.
The pumps that bring water from the reservoirs outside Caracas also need to be replaced. Two auxiliary dams which are meant to supply water in case of emergencies are critically low.
These factors have led Hidrocapital to adopt extreme water savings measures such as cutting service for as long as 2 days. Majority of the people in Caracas only get 30 minutes of water supply daily.
The water crisis has come to a point where those who want more must pay. Subsidized water became a source of income for those who control and deliver it.
Private tankers have been filling up and reselling water at exorbitant prices. However, recently military officers have been blocking private tankers and forcing them to deliver to government offices, military residences or private homes without pay.
Poor families are suffering immensely. For drinking water, they wait for particles to settle at the bottom of plastic buckets and boil the surface water for half an hour. For laundry, they wash several loads of clothes and linens in the same dirty water.
Venezuela has been at the centre of the United States’ outrage over the United Nations’ failure to consistently manage human rights violations.
U.S. President Donald Trump formally pulled out the United States from its position in the U.N’s Human Rights Council for what he perceived as preferential treatment for Venezuela.
Despite its atrocious human rights record, the U.N. continues to honour Venezuela with a seat in the UNHRC.